The Oregonian: Waterproof Tiny House: Modern Dwellings From Recycled Shipping Containers

Kristian Strang

Posted By: Kristian Strang

December 13, 2018

Originally published by The Oregonian on December 9, 2015. Read the original story here.

By Janet Eastman

The Oregonian/OregonLive

Will this idea float?

Sustainable businessman Erick Haglund appreciates the sturdiness of shipping containers. He knows that these steel boxes are stacked 10 high on cargo ships when they cross oceans. He respects the way they stand up to wind, rain, waves, and can be reused to shelter products.

Why, then, he wondered, not use them to shelter people?

Haglund now sells converted shipping containers through his company, Modern Dwellings that have been upgraded and outfitted to please homeowners who want a small, self-contained apartment for their backyard to use as an in-law apartment, rental or studio.

Businesses want the transformed transport vessels as portable pop-up spaces they can set up in parking lots or mountain ski resorts for a meet and greet. The rectangular container is dropped off and then it’s a simple plug and play, says Haglund, who designs the homes.

Surrounded by sea elements? Salt water is not a problem for Corten steel. Pounding rains like Portland is experiencing now? These containers were built to be waterproof.

People who live or work in converted shipping containers — either one unit or a series of them joined together — like the modular form but find insulating them and controlling heating and cooling a headache. Worn, sometimes rusty, containers need cosmetic repairs too.

To disguise its original purpose and add a Pacific Northwest aesthetic, Haglund clads a 24-foot-long container in old-growth Douglas fir he recovers from boom logs once used in the Columbia River that he sells through his other company, Columbia Riverwood,which is based in Alsea, Oregon.

The container’s framed openings are filled with Sierra Pacific energy-efficient windows and doors.

The transformed shipping container’s 192-square-foot interior space can be sectioned off to include a kitchen, living, sleeping and bathing space.

The paneling on walls, ceilings and floors is either reclaimed Columbia Riverwood or new wood from forests that are managed to meet Forest Stewardship Council-certification. Countertops are made of 2-inch butcher block.

Other materials used that are seen in upscale homes include Pratt & Larson tile, Coulee Concrete sink and shower pan, Blanco sinks and Delta faucets. Energy-efficient features in the recycled structure include LED lighting on dimmers and appliances, such as a refrigerated drawer and a Kitchenaid two-burner cook top.

Haglund says the surplus shipping containers he’s found, especially in the port town of Portland, “are the most readily moved item in the world.” He seized the opportunity to create a portable, recycled structure.

“They can be moved to your backyard or back acre,” he says.

One of his Modern Dwellings, priced at $75,000, was parked at Portland State University during the Nov. 6 Build Small, Live Large Summit. Conference goers and passersby could tour small footprint homes, from a farm-style tiny house on wheels to a cedar-sided RV.

People were attracted to the converted container and its steel, whalebone-style staircase installed to reach the roof top deck. Haglund’s dog, Siuslaw, easily stepped up and down the stairs. An owner could opt to shade the space with a metal and wood custom awning.

“I was motivated to create a sustainable, small footprint, livable space that is modern, affordable, high-quality and movable,” says Haglund. “I didn’t want to just use a trailer, because that’s been done so much. Once I came upon the idea of shipping containers it was the only way I wanted to go.”

— Janet Eastman